This is an e-mail we receive regularly that looks at world events from the viewpoint of Israel. The woman who writes it is Jewish, so some of her terminology may be unfamiliar to you. She refers to God as Hashem, Shabbat is the Sabbath, Avram is Araham, and Torah means the first part of the Bible. I thought the parallel between the traditional Bible reading for next Tuesday and our election in the US was striking.
Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
Over the years I have on several occasions referred to a principle of Jewish teaching: namely, that the weekly Torah portion speaks directly to what is happening in Israel, in the world and/or in the lives of individuals during the very week of its reading. Sometimes the message is obvious; sometimes it requires in depth study to draw it out, sometimes we don’t see it at all but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
This past Shabbat I felt inclined to look ahead a couple of weeks to the Torah portion that coincides with the election in the United States on Nov. 4th. Is there perchance any message there for us?
The weekly Torah study of devout Jews begins anew on Sunday of each week and culminates on the next Shabbat when the entire week’s portion is read in the synagogue service. Throughout the week, the portion is divided into seven sections for study.
Therefore, I looked first at the Torah portion as a whole which will be read on Shabbat, Nov. 8th and then I zeroed in specifically on the section of verses which will be studied on the very day of the election, Tuesday, Nov. 4th.
The Torah portion is Lech Lecha – Gen. 12:1 – 17:27 which begins with the verse: Now Hashem said to Abram: ‘Get yourself out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.
The specific section for Tuesday of that week is Gen. 13:5 – 18. It is the account of the argument that developed between the herdsmen of Avram and the herdsmen of Lot.
Seeing the disunity between them, Avram approached Lot and said, ‘Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? separate yourself, I pray you, from me; if you will go to the left,, then I will go to the right; or if you will go to the right, then I will go to the left.’
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and saw that all the plain of the Jordan was well watered every where; [it was before Hashem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah]; it was like the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt, as you go towards Zoar.
So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed east; and they separated themselves, one from the other.
Essentially what we learn from these verses is that Avram took the humbler position and gave his nephew, Lot, the freedom and the opportunity to make a decision about his future.
Lot looked with his eyes and saw one particular area that looked lush and held the promise of quick prosperity. There is no indication that Lot prayed or asked Hashem for guidance in any way. He made his decision by what looked like the ‘best deal’ for him immediately and in the near future.
The only problem is that very shortly thereafter, everything he saw that “looked so good” was utterly destroyed and Lot lost nearly everything, including his wife. Only his daughters survived with him.
Avram, on the other hand, accepted with gratitude what “appeared” to be less prosperous in the short run, only to hear from Hashem who spoke thus to him after Lot had departed:
And Hashem said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Now, lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your seed for ever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered.
Arise, walk through the length and breadth of the land; for to you will I give it.’ And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to Hashem.
Is there a message? With all due respect, how can anyone miss it???
Lot chose what looked to him the way of quick and easy prosperity and relief from the difficulties he was facing at that moment right where he was. It ended in utter disaster.
Avram was willing to trust Hashem to care for him and to do what was best for him for the purpose of fulfilling the covenant which Hashem had already made with him earlier. Avram pitched his tent at the direction of Hashem and the long term blessings still continue.
I would like to respectfully suggest that we draw our own personal application from observing the actions and decisions of Avram and Lot as we prepare for the election.
Short term gain for long term pain is the story of Lot.
Faith in Hashem, the moral values of integrity, humility and dedication to a Person and a cause greater than himself merited eternal blessing not only for Avram but for his descendants down to this very day.
What does this say to you? Only you can decide.
It has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat; it has to do with looking to Hashem’s Torah for divine counsel and guidance. May we all cast our vote from a biblical rather than a material perspective.
Shalom and blessings to all,